My dad drove us to San Antonio a couple days ago and we talked about…life. That’s kind of how me and my dad are—we either talk about ridiculous, trivial things like, I don’t know, “Decent Honey Mustard and Where To Buy It” OR super deep topics that stick with me forever like, “The Time A Man Died In My Arms.” We don’t have much of an in-between. Fart jokes or how mistakes can shape your future. The importance of washing your vehicle or the importance of family, friendship, and love.
So when careers and ambition came up, it started off as Dad casually listing every job he’s ever had (before, during, and after his 31 years in the Coast Guard). It was like a game—because the things he’s done are absurd. They sound like pure fiction. Movie-stuff.
Mowed lawns|Ranch laborer|Roofer|Tugboat oiler|Rode rodeo|Convenient store night manager|Seaman|Wrestler…yes, wrestler. I’ve seen the photos. Don’t tell him I wrote this, it’s supposed to be a family secret hahaha|EMT|Boat coxswain|Aviation structural mechanic|Search and rescue air crewman|Special agent|Chief warrant officer|Bailiff
Yeah, now you get it. Like, I’m sorry, what? How have you been all of those things? How have I never heard the word “coxswain” before? And how many people out there have had this many titles in one lifetime?
What I really started realizing though was—wow…Dad has done SO much in his life, traveled to SO many places, saved lives, earned awards—but his true happiness came from marrying my mom. Kind of crazy, right? To think that all those sappy cards, cheesy movies, and romance novels are *gasp* RIGHT about LOVE being the true purpose of life?! Ahhhhhh my life is a lie!
Except, oh yeah, that’s right, I’ve been a hopeless, disgusting romantic since maybe…second grade? I’ve always wanted the meet-cute, the traveling the world hand-in-hand, the poppin’ out babies…you know, that whole gross thing. When asked my CAREER AMBITIONS and LIFE GOALS I say things like, “I want to publish another novel and travel to a new country every year. Maybe get my PhD. Maybe teach college one day instead of high school.” And then in my head, I add, “Meet a lovely man and have a giant family and a really noisy house.”
My ambition has been a little misguided over the years. I think it’s a generational thing. Our parents had no problem stating their goals of settling down. They are content with “average lives” because that means love, family, friends—bliss. They have no qualms with “ordinary” or “mediocre.” This means happiness. Whereas my generation sees a conventional life as a failure—you’re not rich, you’re not famous, history books won’t talk about you, you’re not a household name, you didn’t shake the world? Oh, well then you’re a disappointment.
Everyone my age wants to be EVERYONE’s everything, instead of “settling” for being someone’s everything. It’s kind of sad. And it’s weird because we admit it, freely. I would LOVE for my novel to take off one day, landing me a publishing deal that I could skate on for a lifetime, sipping coffee by the beach and typing a few pages a day.
But do we really believe THAT’S what will lead to fulfillment? I think it’s far too easy to get caught up in that line of thinking—solely focusing on how to make your life more meaningful, exciting, memoir-worthy—constantly comparing yourself to “the average Joe.”
Having ambition is amazing—it shows confidence, it proves work-ethic, it displays creativity—it’s sexy. But if you let career ambition define you…and nothing else…what will you have when you’re wrinkly, sick…dying?
If all I ever have “to show for my life” (ugh, even that expression is a terrible tactic used to make people feel bad about…what exactly?) is a few students who thank me or a guy who digs my quirks and flaws or a kid who calls me Grandma and likes to read my old poetry notebooks, I’ll be pretty damn happy. That kid might be the last person to ever even remember my existence, but that’s OK, as long as I’ll be able to say that I did what I loved (I wrote, I taught, I traveled) and I loved who I wanted to love and they loved me back.
I guess it’s time I write about Uncle Chuck. I mean, I kind of already wrote about him here. But I mean write about his death, which is weird since I think I’m still in the denial phase…
I couldn’t decide what I wanted to write…all my other blogs (try to) have a common theme of sorts. There are just so many thoughts, so many emotions, so much roller coaster bullshit that I could write about this past week.
I want to write about my Aunt Gigi and how she’s dealing with this and how we now know how much Uncle Chuck actually took care of her. She didn’t even know where the keys to the house were. He did everything for her—drove her everywhere, paid all the bills, cooked every meal…
I want to write about how you don’t have to be blood related to be family. He was the closest thing I’ve ever had to a real grandfather—he’s actually the only man who’s been there for me every day since I was born. He was a father when I didn’t have one, a grandfather when I didn’t have one, always an uncle, always a friend, and always trying to fatten me up with carne guisada.
I want to write about my first real funeral experience. How I don’t want to put my family through a viewing, a rosary, a second viewing, a terribly long and mournful ceremony, and on and on… Catholics just can’t get enough of the whole drawn-out sadness, huh? No thank you. Give everyone a tiny bit of my ashes to toss on their next cool vacation and throw a BBQ where everyone has to wear yellow and share a hilarious story about me. Something like that. No priest who had never even heard of me and no hail Marys.
I want to write about seeing all the familiar faces of my childhood. All the Mendez’s whom I’ve grown up without, who kinda look like me, who are kinda crazy like me. I want to write about how strange it was for my dad to be there, the best shoulder to cry on, amongst all of his wife’s ex-husband’s familia. I want to write about how weird it was to realize that he was closer to Uncle Chuck than my real father was, who didn’t even show up. And how Mom, not even part of Aunt Gigi’s family any more at all, is like her daughter—the one Aunt Gigi asks for help going to the bathroom.
But mostly, I want to write about how amazing Uncle Chuck was. I’ve never met anyone more selfless. I don’t think I ever witnessed him doing something solely for himself. He always talked about wanting to play guitar and travel the world, but he never did it. He bought a guitar, but spent all his time putting in hours at the courthouse or tending to the yard or cooking Mexican food better than any gringo I’ve ever met.
When I was little, if I wanted French fries from McDonald’s, a bean and cheese from Taco Cabana, and a soda from the gas station, he would go to all three without question. If I wanted to stop and see the cows, he would pull over and “Moooooo!” with me for as long as I wanted. And best of all, he would let me do his hair!
He was that guy who was constantly offering and giving—do you want a beer? Do you need advice? Do you need gas money? Do you want to take these 10 pounds of leftover rice and beans so you don’t have to cook for weeks? No Uncle Chuck, no, no, no thank you!
I will miss saying no to all those things, Charles Gordon. I will miss your wrinkly kisses on my cheek, the familiar sight of you in a plain white t-shirt (the only thing he ever wore), and your dirty jokes that were always unexpected and always hilarious. I will miss Aunt Gigi yelling your name and watching you ignore her in the most creative ways. I will miss your big, droopy ears and how easy you were to shop for (house slippers, every year). I will miss sometimes saying yes to the rice and beans and I will miss you, Uncle Chuck, so, so, so incredibly much.
To those of you living with your mummy and daddy…
Ah, living at home. It’s like a breath of fresh air, a complete comfort, a vacation…IN HELL. Yes, I have recently moved in with my parents after two years of living on an island thousands of miles away from them. So yes, my transition from distanced paradise to a room decorated by Mom is a bit more of a struggle than some other people have had to face.
Let me also make it clear that this situation is temporary. Just another month and I’ll be unpacking in my Austin apartment with my best friend.
But how do I survive another month?! How will I survive another week?!
No one who has lived on their own should ever, EVER have to move back in with the rents. And while I’m on that note, if you’re over the age of 21 but still have a roommate that pushed you out of her vagina, MOVE OUT! I understand that there are certain financial dilemmas that set some people back. But for the love of Netflix, I’d be flippin’ burgers all day every day if it meant my own closet-sized casa—do what you gotta do!
And don’t give me that “my parents are actually really cool” bullcrap. No one’s parents are that cool. Cool enough to have dinner with and laugh at a movie together? Sure. Cool enough to combine whites when it’s laundry day? THAT IS NOT COOL, THAT IS SAD.
If you are living with the parentals, let me give you some fantastic reasons to get the hell outa there as fast as you can:
- If you have your own place, you can bring dates home (for a glass of wine or to get laid, wherever your mind went with that…let it wander). I really don’t need any more reasons after this, am I right? But I do have many other reasons.
- You can be as messy as you want without ever hearing, “You know, it’s really not that hard to…”
- You can sleep as late as you want without your mom barging in and proclaiming loudly that, “It’s almost TEN!”
- You can be gone all night, all weekend, or all month without the SWAT team being called.
- You can choose what’s in your fridge and pantry…whether that means you can choose to go on a diet and be away from all your parents’ greasy, buttery, fat-filled foods (nomnom but cellulitecellulite) or it could mean that you can choose to eat ramen and fruit roll-ups all day without hearing any lectures.
- Alcohol. Smoking. All things sinful. Ah, the freedom to kill brain cells. I miss it.
- Set the damn AC to whatever damn degree you damn well please.
- The TV will belong to you. The remote will belong to you. Basically, the universe is yours.
- Any bad decision that you want to make, any horrible idea at all—you can do it without them ever even knowing… Paint your walls neon yellow, buy a pet cobra, cover every window with Adam Levine posters, break the dryer and be too cheap to fix it so you have to hang clothes all over the house, have an indoor water balloon fight, throw a massive party that ends in total destruction… You have permission…because you can give yourself permission (note: you will also probably not get your deposit back).
- Not living with your parents means you can avoid arguments about a) politics b) life choices c) deer overpopulation (OK, this one might not be so general). When you live on your own, you can strategically avoid arguing with your parents completely. Or strategically avoid your parents, period, ha.
I will hopefully survive the next month in this rehab-like institution, thanks to the dog (I do love the dog), the gym, and frequent nights out. But sweet baby Jesus, I can’t wait to visit the folks instead of sleeping down the hall from them. I encourage you to get out before it’s too late! Every day that you live under the same roof as those who birthed you, you lose one coolness point. I was born with a LOT of points, so I’ll be fine, but you might not be as lucky.
P.S. My parents are pretty much my top two blog fans soooo…about that….love you guys!
Dad has officially kicked Stupid Cancer in the ass and I wanted to share my ecstatic relief with the world in more than just a Facebook status. I hope this blog helps you understand why losing him to Stupid Cancer was not an option. I love you Dad!
My dad taught me that if you put salt on your drink napkin at restaurants, then your glass won’t stick.
He’s a pretty handy guy like that. He can fix anything, even if it’s not broken. You know that movie quote about a guy who’s lost in the woods only needing a pocket knife and a toothpick to be able to build a shopping mall? Yeah, that’s my dad. He probably wouldn’t even need the toothpick.
He used to be really good at carrying heavy things, but his back is now just as bad as mine and his strong arms that have moved me in and out of shitty apartments have been replaced by whoever is trying to date me (or vice versa) at the moment.
He’s taught me how to fish. More importantly, he taught me how to get away with reading a magazine in the boat while he fishes.
He’s taught me a lot of “reals”. Like what a real gentleman should be—and do and say and not do and not say. What a REAL handshake and hug should feel like.
He taught me how to appreciate good food. Notably—freshly caught fish v. frozen, medium steak v. well done, and homemade barbeque sauce and honey mustard v. packaged. He taught me how to recognize the taste of venison when it’s snuck into food, looking and acting like beef. He taught me how to cut meat properly.
My dad taught me that it can always be worse—you could be shot at or bitten by a rattlesnake or have to frantically jump off a hotel balcony half-naked. He taught me to “get a helmet” and “poop in one hand, wish in the other and see which one fills up faster”. He taught me sarcasm.
He taught me what kind of boys to bring home and what kind of boys to avoid. By watching the way he treats my mom, he’s taught me what kind of husband I want. By experiencing the way he treats me, he’s taught me what kind of father I want for my children.
He has TRIED to teach me about politics, cars, the military, and history. I have retained about 1% of that information. Sorry Dad.
He taught me not to put up with anybody’s shit.
He taught me that anyone can be a father, but it takes someone really special to be a dad.
He’s taught me so much over the years and I know that he’ll continue to teach me for many, many more years.
Thanks for being so strong Daddy. You couldn’t have given Mom a better Mother’s Day gift this year!
Cancer is that thing you hear about- on TV, movies, or from friends about friends of friends. You never think it’ll be you or YOUR parents. And if it is, you imagine it’ll just be a scare or a simple, no-brainer, caught it early type deal.
My dad is my stepdad, as most people know. Although once, at a wedding, a man said, “This your daughter? I can tell, you have the same smile.” Me and dad looked at each other and grinned. If he meant we both had lips and teeth, well sure. But dad is a 60-something Santa look-alike with baby blue eyes and a Texan tattoo.
Anyway, I obviously love the guy with all my heart and up until now, I kind of thought he was invincible. My parents, lovely tight-lipped haoles, thought it’d be best to wait until I was home for Christmas to tell me that Dad has prostate cancer.
Big mistake. 1. I’d just spent 12 hours on a plane. 2. Of course I’m going to be pissed that the whole damn family knows except me. 3. Dad made me think he was giving me a present.
Let me explain #3. Mom’s usually the one who buys me gifts, unless it has to do with technology or cars in any way. This is rare, since those things are usually expensive, and this is when Dad takes over. Whenever this happens, he’s like a small child. He cannot wait to give me the gift and he pesters Mom until she says, “Ok, fine!” This is exactly how he was acting all day. I was like, hell yeah, I’m about to get a new laptop or a kindle! What an extreme opposite to a gift.
At that point, I was bawling, yelling, and getting away with cussing all at the same time. Total psychotic episode. That is the only time in my life that my parents haven’t severely scolded me for saying “fuck.”
I was pissed that they hadn’t told me, but I was even more pissed that Dad hadn’t taken action yet. He has some great points and explanations about “his plan,” but I don’t really care. I’d rather the doctors chop off the entire lower half of his body if it meant he’d be alive longer. I don’t care that it’s his body and I don’t care about the nasty side effects. However, I apparently don’t get an opinion on my dad’s genitals. Go figure.
I realized that for them to sit me down and tell me this—and for Mom to be crying while they did so—this was obviously a lot more serious than Dad was letting on. They’ve both had cancer scares before. Dad even had to have a kidney removed. But those times either a) really weren’t that big of a deal, b) they were much better liars back then, or c) I was a naïve idiot. I’m going to go with a mix of all three.
Dad will probably not like that I wrote all this but… the way I see it, I need to cover all bases. I don’t pray. But I admit that I very well could be wrong about this God character. I’m probably not, but just in case, I need as many people out there who DO pray to pray.
If you don’t know my dad very well and you’d like to make your prayer more personable, here are some solid facts you’re welcome to use:
- Dad’s middle name is LeRoy. He despises it and using it to his face WILL get you a death glare.
- Dad loves Obama, vegetarian foods, marijuana, and Diet Coke. He wants to outlaw guns and move somewhere more his style, like L.A. He wishes he could spend more time at the beach, shopping, or volunteering in Africa with Hilary Clinton.
- He is the utter opposite of #2.
- Dad likes to seem tough, and he definitely can be. But at heart, he’s a complete teddy bear who cried when I wrote him a really cheesy poem once.
- Fishing, poker, and television crime shows. Obsessed.
- He has never treated me like a “stepdaughter”—I don’t really know what that even means really. All I know is that I can’t tell the difference between our relationship and the relationship all my friends have with their “blood fathers.” He definitely stepped up to the plate and filled a void in my life and I love him so much more for that.
All jokes aside, I’m scared shitless. I tried to make this blog lighthearted so that it wouldn’t be a completely depressing read. I love hiding my emotions behind humor! But I’ve never lost anyone in my life. I was too young to even remember when my great-grandparents died, or my Uncle Rick. I am definitely not ready to lose my dad.
SO BACK OFF, CANCER, YOU STUPID BITCH!
I’m sure he’ll be fine, as the doctor has apparently assured. Prostate cancer has a very high survival rate and Dad is more badass than most men. He’s been shot, he’s jumped out of helicopters to save lives, etc. etc. But I’d still appreciate the prayer thing. Or, ya’ know, whatever you think will help. Voodoo doll personifying cancer, spells, curses, meditation, light a candle… I don’t know very much about religions, this is clear. Or you can just give him a hug next time you see him! Or a Facebook hug, those are nice too.